African Pygmy Hedgehogs are typically quite healthy animals, especially when you make sure you adopt him from a reputable place. However, there are some fairly common hedgehog health issues to be aware of. We’ll go over each common issue along with prevention and care for each one so that you can be prepared to keep your hedgie healthy.
Please not that this information is simply for educational purposes and if you have any concerns with your hedgehog, be sure to contact your veterinarian for appropriate treatment or advice.
To make sure that you notice any signs or symptoms of health issues, observe your hedge and take him out of his cage regularly to check for any bumps or strange behavior.
Hedgehogs can become very overweight quite easily. Luckily, this is an issue that can be easily avoided!
Prevention: Start by feeding your hedgehog between 1-3 tablespoons of food per day, total. When you pick up your hedgehog for the first time, your breeder or pet store owner should be able to tell you how much to start off with. Over the next several weeks, watch carefully to see how much weight your hedgehog is gaining.
You will know if your hedgehog needs to lose weight if he can no longer fully curl into a ball.
Care: If you notice that your hedgehog is gaining too much weight and is having trouble curling into a ball, slowly cut back his amount of food until he is at the right weight. Also make sure that the food you are feeding your hedgehog is low on fat.
In addition, make sure you hedgehog is getting enough exercise. You should have a running wheel in his cage, and should be allowed out of his cage for about 3o minutes each day.
Quilling is a completely normal phase that all hedgehogs go through, and is not actually a hedgehog health issue but an occurrence to be aware of. This is when your hedgehog begins to lose his quills as a new set are grown. This typically begins around 2 months to 6 months old, and can continue for up just a couple of weeks or several months.
During this phase, your hedgehog may be grumpier than usually and may not want to be touched. This is okay – their skin may be extra sensitive during this time and they simply may not want to be touched!
Care: The best way to help your hedgehog through this phase is to be sure you are still socializing with them, even if just holding them on your lap or allowing them to walk around out of their cage, under their supervision. Since their skin may be very sensitive, when it’s time for a bath, be sure to use an oatmeal shampoo or a drop of olive oil in the water to help soothe and moisturize the skin.
According to Lake Howell Animal Clinic, mites are the most common hedgehog health issue requiring veterinarian visits, thought still quite uncommon overall. Signs to look for include extreme itching, flaky skin, and loss of quills.
Prevention: Since mites are thought to come onto your hedgehog through another animal or infested wood shavings, there isn’t much you can do to prevent mites aside from making sure you are keeping your hedgie in a clean environment and using quality products in their cages.
Care: If you notice signs of mites on your hedgehog, bring him to your vet for diagnosis. The vet will likely perform a skin scrape. If diagnosed with mites, the best treatment option is a single topical treatment of a medication called Revolution (selamectin).
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a neurological disorder that can affect hedgehogs typically over the age of one. It is typically a form of progressive paralysis that begins at the end of the tail and works its way forward. If your hedgehog seems to be having trouble walking correctly or is falling over while he tries to walk, wobbly leg syndrome may be the issue.
Luckily, in the vast majority of cases, these walking issues are the result of your hedgehog becoming too cold and can be fixed by raising the temperature in his area, especially in the colder months.
Prevention: Unfortunately, Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) is most likely a genetic disorder, so it cannot be prevented. When purchasing your hedgehog, be sure to ask the breeder about any genetic issues with the parents.
Care: If you’ve raised the temperature several times and are sure that your hedgehog is not attempting to hibernate from the cold, it’s time to take your hedgie to the vet for diagnosis. Sadly, there is currently no cure for WHS, but there is support and treatments you can give your hedgehog to improve his quality of life.
Hedgehogs are susceptible to ear infections. Signs to look for include discharge around the ears, scratching of the ears, and if your hedgehog seems to be having trouble balancing.
Prevention: Make sure that you are bathing your hedgehog about once per month (though be sure not to wash too close to the ears), and cleaning out his cage weekly to ensure that bacteria that can cause infections isn’t building up in his environment.
Care: Take your hedgehog to the vet when you notice signs of an ear infection. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with the correct diagnosis and remedy.
Diarrhea in hedgehogs can be caused by a variety of reasons, including a change in diet, being in a stressful environment, or parasites.
Prevention: Make sure that your hedgehog is kept in a calm environment and check that you are never feeding him the “no-eat” foods from the hedgehog food list. Also be sure to handle your hedgehog with clean hands and clean his cage regularly to ensure that there isn’t bacteria growing.
Care: If you notice your hedgehog has diarrhea for more than 24 hours, contact your veterinarian for further direction. You may have to bring your hedgehog in for testing to ensure that he doesn’t have a gastrointestinal disease or parasite.
Hedgehogs are prone to cancer, most commonly after the age of three.
Prevention: It is suspected that the cancer is caused by a virus. The best you can do to decrease your hedgehog’s chances of cancer are to keep him in a clean environment and feeding him the right types of foods.
Care: If you notice that your hedgehog seems sick or not himself, your vet will have to run tests including blood work and ultrasound to diagnose cancer. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for hedgehogs with cancer.
Thank you, Justin & Elise, for the hedgehog photo featured above!